The Long Reach (Nintendo Switch) Review

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After an unexpectedly loud boom as the publisher’s logo blasts into view, you are met with a relatively standard, yet captivating title screen. Featuring an ominous background track and a selection of unclear security camera images, it’s difficult to avoid a feeling of anticipation going into the game. Just what lurks beyond these monitors, and just who is watching them? Eager to answer these questions, I selected new game, and waited. And waited. And waited a little more. Loading times are something I rarely notice, whether they fly by or distract me with a model to look at, or a puzzle to solve. The Long Reach fell short in this respect, and it really emphasised just how long I was waiting. With the initial load of a game spanning up to 50 seconds, it goes a long way in killing the atmosphere built by the title screen. Once you’re past the initial load, the game thankfully runs flawlessly, with little delay between screen transitions.

The controls for the game feel a little unrefined in places, but overall provide a suitable means of experiencing what is on offer. A minor annoyance I found came from the graphic showing the controls, marking B as means of selection, and A as means of cancellation. It seemed odd on a Nintendo system, but with it being released on other systems concurrently, I could see some sense in preserving the control layout. This wasn’t the case. The buttons were indeed swapped appropriately for Nintendo hardware, but in doing so, created an awkward situation of the action and run button being opposite each other. Perhaps insignificant to some, but it forced me to embrace the Joy Con with a claw-like motion as I desired to frantically scramble through what the game had to offer.

How the Horror Gets Made

Dialogue and choice are at the core of The Long Reach; the game harbours a mastery of writing, able to jump between tension and humour seamlessly. Featuring 2D environments to explore, you’re encouraged to examine each element of the scenery in intimate detail. Will you discover a useful piece of information? An ominous message? An insightful quip from our protagonist? With so much on offer from every interaction, it’s hard to avoid stopping at every opportunity. Some of the best moments in the game are hidden beyond these orange-outlined events, truly rewarding those who take the time to look around.

An integral part of interaction is using the objects collected to solve problems as they arise. With an inventory system reminiscent of old RPGs, you find yourself excited as you realise the extension cord you found earlier can be used to light up a dead man’s body, or as your most humble of coffee cups lives on as a challis of the ages. The game does a good job in rewarding intuition, and feeds you a reasonable sense of satisfaction as you piece together its puzzles for yourself. As a rather inept person, I found my time with The Long Reach falling into a viscous cycle of frustration, breakthrough, and a new problem arising. The game goes to no length in holding your hand, ultimately leaving you to fend for yourself. It can definitely be frustrating at time, but the way it pulls you back in as you finally manage to get to the solution will keep you coming back for more.

Hiding spots are something particularly interesting when it comes to interacting with the world. Watching your character disappear into or behind cover on a dimly lit hallway sends a message; something is coming. Something is worth hiding from. It hammers into you a feeling of something lurking just beyond the boundaries of the screen, even when it simply isn’t the case. The sight of them paired with the desire to interact with the world works well to build a haunting atmosphere whilst not doing anything noticeably extra as you play.

Sounds in the Dark

Sound in The Long Reach is something to be toyed with, and it goes far in playing with its set of tools. Featuring no voiced dialogue, I found myself initially disappointed as I read through what felt like a wall of text in the opening scene. As I moved through this sequence of events, nothing stood out to me. The world was nice, the dialogue was amusing, but it had no stand out factor. This changed as I picked up the phone and began a conversation. The conversation featured, like much of the game, a series of options, each leading to a different line of dialogue. It was in this conversation it hit me; sounds outside the room I was currently standing in suddenly became audible. The conversation currently in progress became a secondary event as I found myself locked in dialogue, with sounds of upheaval and chaos a fraction beyond my reach. It was here I realised just how well the developers used what they had. The lack of voice acting allows you to draw focus on other aspects of the game, it transforms a well written piece of dialogue into a reason to be cautious and attentive—this especially noticeable when contrasted with the cynical humour woven throughout.

Ambient sounds match the world nicely, creating something that feels ominously close to reality, despite the graphical disconnect. With this ambience, the game utilises visualisation of sound to maintain tension and a sense of urgency. Shown as a white bar from the location of the sound, this visualisation keeps in your mind the possibility of being watched, of being followed through the darkness. After sneaking into a room, you might see sound coming from the other side of the door. Are you being pursued? Is this slow, rhythmic pulse of sound simply that of a dripping tap? Either way, you want to find what you’re looking for, and get out fast.

A Haunted Tale

This game isn’t without its range of curiosities and minor glitches, but I never felt any of these imperfections particularly impactful on the experience. Rather early on when attempting to hide, my character decided to have somewhat of an outer body experience, the camera completely detaching from his hiding body. It was a small error of unknown cause that was rectified by simply interacting with the hiding spot again. As well as this, you have the controls mix-up, and a main menu that for some reason always starts with new game highlighted. These are small issues, however I feel them worth mentioning. Despite these, the game shines through in presenting a beautifully classic take on a horror title; one that I would feel comfortable recommending for fans of puzzles and adventures alike.

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